Vegas owns NASCAR driving championship

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Break open the Champagne Las Vegas! It’s time to have a ticker-tape parade down the Strip saluting a pro championship for the city, the place where Kyle Busch was born and raised.

Okay, so it’s not the World Series, Super Bowl, NBA or NHL, but for Las Vegans, it’s really all we got in the pro sports world.

No word from the mayor’s office if any type of official celebration will take place. The NASCAR Awards ceremony will be held in two weeks at the Wynn with all kinds of other festivities planned throughout the town. Busch, who lives in the Charlotte area now, may truly feel the hometown love when he visits then.

The transformation of Busch over his career has been amazing to watch. Once brash and cocky with an arrogance that rubbed fans the wrong way, you could kind of feel a sense of change this season after he missed the first 11 races of the season with a broken leg suffered in the season opening Xfinity Series race at Daytona.

At the same time, his wife Samantha was pregnant with their first child. Busch had a lot of things running through his head. He probably knows he should have won a Sprint Cup title already within in his first 10 years, but had failed miserably in the Chase. In fact, Sunday’s win at Homestead was his first win ever during the Chase.

Basically, Kyle Busch grew up real fast. He became humble, gracious, a father and put his career in perspective. When he got an exemption from NASCAR to be allowed to qualify for the Chase if he met the criteria despite not participating in all the races. He used all the positives outlooks from his wife, son and family and energized his career. Busch looked back at watching those first 11 races on TV from his own lazy-boy at home and realized this sport was moving on just fine without him.

Kyle would go through a stretch of winning four of five races during the summer – three straight at one point including the Brickyard 400. He had the one win requirement to make the Chase, but would still have to make the top-30 in points before the 10-race Chase began in Chicago. He would clinch with one race to spare.

From there, Kyle just played the game. Finish well, stay out of trouble and advance to the next round. On Sunday, he would go head to head with last year’s champion Kevin Harvick down the stretch. And while he could have just played it safe and try to finish second behind Brad Keselowski, he pulled out his ace on the re-start.

Nobody is better than Kyle on restarts – and that was the winning move that made him a first time winner at Homestead and a first-time Cup champion. He also gave Toyota its first championship as a manufacturer, and for the fans in Vegas, he gave us our second championship. The first came from his brother Kurt Busch in 2004.

Can he do it again next year? He certainly has the monkey off his back now, but I can’t imagine any more would be sweeter than what he accomplished with all the ups and downs of 2015.

Encore: The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook will have 2016 Sprint Cup odds posted early this week and it’s likely Harvick and Joey Logano will be the two favorites. But don’t count out the new and improved Kyle Busch. He’ll be back with a vengeance without the label of unreached potential. Congratulations Kyle, you’re Vegas family is all proud of you.

Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas race and sports book director, one of The Linemakers on SportingNews.com , and longtime motorsports columnist and sports analyst at GamingToday. Twitter: @MicahRoberts7 Email: [email protected].

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